The Metals Company announced with Allseas the successful results of a deep-sea test of its polymetallic nodule collector vehicle in the Atlantic Ocean. The vehicle was tested at a depth of nearly 2,500 meters.
You may recall my previous articles on The Metals Company and my two interviews with CEO Gerard Barron. I followed the progress of The Metals Company before they changed their name from Deep Green. To recap, I will briefly share their purpose.
The Metals Company focuses on polymetallic seabed nodules. These little mineral balls are filled with critical metals used in the production of electric vehicles – mainly batteries. In my interview with Gérard, he explained why the focus was on the nodules.
“We only impact the top 5 centimeters of the ocean floor. The way I like to put it is that if we took a step back and took a planetary perspective and had our time again, it would make sense to take the extractive industry to the parts of the planet where there is least of life. We would not naturally go to our biodiverse rainforests where there is a lot of biomass and which serve as huge carbon sinks. We would go to the deserts, and that’s where we are. We are in the largest desert on the planet, which is just under 4,000 meters of water.
“If we measure life as biomass, there are about 13 grams of biomass per square meter. Most are sediment-dwelling bacteria. Compare that with Indonesia, where most of our future nickel comes from. As you know, car batteries have a lot of nickel in the cathodes, and even though they were able to make cobalt, it’s not so good with nickel because of the energy density that he delivers. And so, there are over 20,000 grams of biomass in the Indonesian rainforests where we now mine nickel. From that perspective, I just think it makes sense to do this in the least populated area of the planet.
You can read the full interview here.
Successful trial in deep water of the polymetallic nodule collector vehicle
Allseas and The Metals Company have been working closely to develop this pilot system since 2019. Allseas designed and built the pilot nodule collection vehicle, which was deployed and lowered to the sea floor at depths of 2,470 meters. This, the company noted, marked the first time the vehicle experienced extreme temperatures and pressures in deep water.
The company added that a range of critical functions have been successfully tested while driving for more than a kilometer on the seabed. The Metals Company has also done extensive testing of its various pumps and critical mobility feature. In total, the robot traveled 1,018 meters on the seabed.
This confirmed the robot’s ability to operate under similar pressure and temperature conditions to areas where it will collect nodules in an area of the Clarion Clipperton area of the Pacific Ocean, which the wholly owned subsidiary of the company, Nauru Ocean. Resources Inc. (NORI).
The company said all trials to date are preparing for full pilot testing of the nodule collection system later this year over an 8km distance.2 section of the NORI-D contract area.
In the press release, The Metals Company said:
“The trials are an integral part of the International Seabed Authority’s regulatory and permitting process and the environmental impact data collected during and after this nodule collection trial work will form the basis of the contract application. operated by TMC’s wholly owned subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI).
The Metals Company plans to conduct further trials in the NORI-D contract area, which will include the deployment of a four-kilometre-long riser that will provide power and control during seafloor operations. It also plans to deploy a 500 meter long flexible connection pipe to connect the riser to the collector vehicle.
Gerard Barron shared a statement on the successful testing of the collector vehicle in deep water:
“The pilot nodule collection system has been performing wonderfully throughout these trials so far and bringing the collection vehicle into the deep waters of the Atlantic has given the team the opportunity to test actually the pressure of the critical components.
“I continue to be amazed by the planning and preparation of Allseas engineers moving straight into wet test commissioning and trial deployment of the riser system.”
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